Artist flourishes in Sarasota and shines in new Saks store

Atist Lori Simon

Artist Lori Simon

10 years ago, after spending a lifetime in Michigan, David Simon asked his wife what she thought about moving to Sarasota.

“I still can’t believe I said yes,” Lori says. The decision proved a turning point.

In 2004, David had sold his business. He and Lori bought a condo on Sarasota’s Lido Beach as a vacation home. A year later, David popped the Florida question. “We’d fallen in love with the culture and artistic feel of the area,” Lori says. Their 3 children were working or in school and no longer at home. The empty nesters sold their Michigan residence and moved to their condo. Soon after, they bought a house inland, at University Park, “small enough to lock and leave and visit our children.”

Initially in Sarasota, Lori and David worked together selling real estate. Lori, who’d studied art in school, also signed up for workshops at Art Center Sarasota. She grew increasingly involved, exhibiting her paintings. She was selected for a show in which artists partnered with local families with special needs children. The child with whom Lori worked was autistic. She asked him to draw a picture and incorporated that drawing into the painting she did of his family. A filmmaker captured the experience on a video shown at a Sarasota Film Festival.

At an Art Center opening, David noticed how animated his wife seemed. After, he said, “Your body language was totally different.” Her heart was in the art world, she admitted. “Then that’s what you should do,” he said. Soon she started showing her artwork at the Frary Gallery in the Rosemary district. (The gallery has since closed.)

For years, Lori’s studio was in her garage. A year ago, she rented a studio north of downtown. As is often the case with artists, the neighborhood isn’t the safest. But Lori loves her studio, and the light from a bank of north facing windows, the other artists surrounding her, and the framer next door. “It’s my sanctuary,” she said. “I put on Bob Seger or jazz or classical music and can work for hours.”

4 years ago, I wandered into the Frary Gallery and bounced out with 3 of Lori’s paintings. A sometime art collector, I like knowing artists whose work I own. As with my children, I enjoy following “my” artists’ careers and watching their (preferably) successes. I was pleased to hear Lori had received a call from an executive of PNC bank. 2 of her paintings now hang in the PNC offices in downtown Sarasota.

I especially loved hearing a second story. The director of visual merchandising of Saks saw Lori’s work at the Art Center. He visited her studio and purchased 16 (Yes, 16!) pieces for the Saks store at the new Taubman/Benderson University Town Center Mall in Sarasota. These stunning works on paper hang in the Eileen Fisher department.

Lori and I share a Saks connection. In past years, I worked for 3 different Saks stores (Detroit’s New Center, Ann Arbor and Manhattan). I shopped at Saks as a child with my beloved grandmother. Lori shopped there with her mother. “Visiting Saks became our special outing. We loved spending time there together.” 15 years ago, Lori’s mom, Boots Fenton, died. The loss hit Lori hard, propelling her new direction. “I became less social and more reflective,” she says. She started going to museums more often and getting back into her own artwork.

Lori paints for herself, she says. “I don’t care if I sell another thing.” That isn’t a problem. Her Saks client requested 20 more paintings for the store opening soon in Puerto Rico.

Thanks, Lori, for sharing such an encouraging story. You remind all of us to follow our hearts. Paint on.

(See Lori’s work and learn more about her at

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12 thoughts on “Artist flourishes in Sarasota and shines in new Saks store

  1. caye stephen

    Lori Simon is one of the most sensitive, unique and gentle spirits I have had the pleasure to meet. I am thrilled for her success in the world of art. To know Lori is a blessing in it self!

  2. Dan Simon

    Suzy, great post! I am so so proud of my mom and could not be happier for her. That actually is even an understatement. She has been inspiring me for decades, and I’m happy that her story is now being shared with others. I am personally lucky enough to have a few Lori Simon originals hanging in my home in Chicago. Our friends think we live in an art gallery – we sort of do now :). My favorite piece was one that she custom made for me, incorporating different aspects of our relationship that always brought us close together. It is my prized material possession – my immaterial one being that of our actual relationship. Her turning point of getting back into her artwork has only strengthened our bond, and has encouraged me to think seriously about my own life turning points as well.

  3. Steve Bennett

    Nice article. Love the work that was featured. Lori and I have Camp Nahelu in Michigan in common. 🙂

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